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Top 10 TV Shows That Totally Abandoned Past Storylines

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Derick Mcduff
Written by Derick McDuff Did they really think we’d just forget about these? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 TV shows that totally abandoned past storylines. For this list, we’re looking at storylines, characters and plot arcs that seemed like they were going somewhere interesting… but then the shows shifted focus or ended up ignoring these elements. We are, however, excluding retcons that actively erased events from a show’s canon – y’know, like how “Will & Grace”’s original last season is no longer part of the show’s continuity in the reboot series. Anyway, we will be talking about major plot points, so expect some spoilers. But since we’re spoiling unresolved plots, does it even matter?
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Did they really think we’d just forget about these? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 TV shows that totally abandoned past storylines.

For this list, we’re looking at storylines, characters and plot arcs that seemed like they were going somewhere interesting… but then the shows shifted focus or ended up ignoring these elements. We are, however, excluding retcons that actively erased events from a show’s canon – y’know, like how “Will & Grace”’s original last season is no longer part of the show’s continuity in the reboot series. Anyway, we will be talking about major plot points, so expect some spoilers. But since we’re spoiling unresolved plots, does it even matter?

#10: Lister’s Pregnancy
“Red Dwarf” (1988-99; 2009; 2012-)

This sci-fi comedy featured a plot where Dave Lister meets his alternate reality female self, Deb, who came from a world where men became pregnant. After a night of a few drinks with his alternate self, Dave ends up pregnant. However, this storyline was quickly swept under the rug, with Dave no longer pregnant in the next episode and the plotline’s resolution hidden in a blink and you’ll miss it Star Wars-esque opening crawl. Originally meant to be resolved in the course of the episode rather than opening text, the writers nixed the plot after realizing it was fairly sexist and not incredibly funny.

#9: Jess Reunites with His Father
“Gilmore Girls” (2000-07, 2016)

In season three’s “Here Comes the Son,” Jess, Rory’s boyfriend and Luke’s nephew, abandons both of them and sets off to find his estranged father Jimmy in California. Instead of centering on Rory or Lorelai, the episode broke from convention and focused almost entirely on Jess in his new home while introducing characters like Jimmy’s girlfriend and her daughter. After establishing these new characters, they are never seen or mentioned again, and Jess has moved to Philadelphia. This random and abandoned arc was actually meant to be a backdoor pilot for a Jess-centered spinoff that was never made, leaving this storyline behind as a weird relic.

#8: Caitlin Left in the Future
“Heroes” (2006-10, 2015)

Sticking with Milo Ventimiglia for a moment, his character in “Heroes” Peter Petrelli and girlfriend Caitlin traveled to the post-apocalyptic future, ravaged by a terrible disease. Separated from Caitlin, Peter is forced to go back to the present and prevented the horrific alternate future. Of course this left Caitlin trapped in a future that never happened. What did that mean for her exactly? Who knows? The second season of Heroes was cut in half by the 2008 writers strike and Caitlin’s fate was never revealed as a result. When “Heroes” returned, the show had moved on to new plots and Caitlin was never mentioned again. Ouch.

#7: Limits on Warp Speed
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-94)

Warp speeds have always been somewhat inconsistent in Star Trek, and nowhere is that more evident than the episode “Force of Nature.” The metaphor compared warp drive to fossil fuels, with the Enterprise’s crew discovering that surpassing speeds of warp five degraded space-time, a proxy for the ozone layer. Ultimately, the Federation placed a galactic speed limit that should have fundamentally changed the nature of space travel. And yet, the speed limit seemingly plays no role, with the exception of two brief mentions that same season, after which it was never mentioned in any other Star Trek series or film set afterward - forcing Star Trek historians and fans to develop off-screen explanations.

#6: Several Characters Disappear
“The West Wing” (1999-2006)

Characters had such a tendency of disappearing in this beloved series that fans even coined the term “sent to Mandyville” referring to Mandy Hampton. Formerly a main character, Mandy disappeared without explanation never to be mentioned again, and others who shared the same fate included Ainsley Hayes, Joe Quincy, Elsie Snuffin, and, most notably, Sam Seaborn. In the fourth season, a subplot focused on Sam’s congressional campaign in California, which was not going particularly well. Whether he managed to pull off an upset or was defeated is anybody guess since it was never spoken of again and Sam himself didn’t reappear until the show’s last episode.

#5: The GS Ball
“Pokémon” (1998-)

Who created this mysterious GS ball and what was inside? If you wanted answers to any of these questions, prepare to be disappointed. After discovering the ball in the Orange Islands, Professor Ivy was unable to use any conventional means to open it. She then gave it to Ash Ketchum who carried this MacGuffin around for roughly sixty episodes, with it changing hands a number of times, but no one coming close to opening it. Finally, Ash left the GS ball with Pokéball maker Kurt, who promised to work on it, and of course he and the ball were never seen or mentioned again.

#4: Jerry & Elaine Getting Back Together
“Seinfeld” (1989-98)

While Jerry and Elaine had been in a romantic relationship before the events of the show, Seinfeld’s focus on irreverence neglected emotional romantic arcs, something NBC’s producers weren’t incredibly happy about. Feeling the pressure from the producers, head writer Larry David crafted a story where Jerry and Elaine became “friends with benefits,” but by the end of the episode realized they couldn’t sleep together with no emotional ties and once again became a couple. This relationship apparently lasted all of five minutes since they weren’t actually a couple from then, with the breakup apparently happening off-screen. The fact that Seinfeld episodes were aired out of order only exacerbated this situation.

#3: Walt’s Powers
“Lost” (2004-10)

Walt was the only child in the main cast during Lost’s first season, which followed survivors of a plane crash surviving on a mysterious island. Walt showed a variety of psychic powers, including astral projection and knowledge of the future. However, after the first season, Malcolm David Kelley, who played Walt, had apparently aged out of the role, and only had cameo-sized appearances going forward. Unlike Desmond and Miles, who had well defined powers, a more intricate explanation of Walt’s abilities was never given by the show. He was also one of the few characters not to return for season six, only receiving a resolution in the show’s epilogue.

#2: The President Disappears
“24” (2001-10, 2014)

Just as the “West Wing” had “Mandyville,” “24” had being "Behroozed," named after the vanished Behrooz Araz. Of course, when the President of the United States vanishes and never gets mentioned again, it’s a pretty big deal. President Keeler was aboard Air Force One when it was brought down, an event that nearly killed everyone aboard in the process. Miraculously Keeler survived, but in seemingly critical condition, and then… well nothing. With Keener’s fate ambiguous, his Vice President assumes his duties, and then everyone just forgets that the last time we saw Keeler… he was still alive.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions;

- Abed’s Girlfriend
“Community” (2009-15)

- Fez & Laurie’s Marriage
“That ‘70s Show”(1998-2006)

#1: The Real Seymour Skinner
“The Simpsons” (1989-)

Fairly or not, many fans point to the season nine episode “The Principal and the Pauper” as the turning point when “The Simpsons” ceased being one of the best comedies of all time, and became much more hit or miss. The episode threw out years of continuity by revealing that Principal Skinner was actually an imposter named Armin Tamzarian. This revelation created a large number of inconsistencies within the show, and aside from one joke, no one ever mentioned that Skinner was a different person ever again. Among the storyline’s detractors are Harry Shearer, the voice of Skinner, and “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening.

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